Looks like D Paul Mara is back in the lineup. More below.
It's the John Tortorella debut tour, Day 2. This time, the new Rangers coach debuts at Madison Square Garden.
And there are new rules here in the building, none of which matter to anybody but those they affect. There's a memo on the way to the corridor that leads to the Rangers dressing room that nobody - NOBODY - who is not a game-day player/coach/official with official business is allowed in the hallway going to the Rangers' room. NHL rules give the media an hour's worth of pre-game access and typically that's where the media hangs out, chatting with players and coaches. Now, the media is behind closed doors, giving their player interview requests to a PR representative. Again, not a big deal, not really even to us, to it's just a sign of the times. And even though Glen Sather's name was on the internal warning memo, there's no doubt it comes directly from Tortorella's pen. (Just remember, I covered two seasons of the Eric Mangini reign of terror with the Jets. By comparison, this is child's play).
Some pre-game Tortorella:
- He liked what he saw from the tapes after watching Wednesday's 2-1 shootout loss at Toronto.
"I feel pretty good about the club, especially after watching the tape. I thought we did some really good things. I thought the support was there, I thought we were pinching at the right time. I thought the effort was there, the D were up the ice. We just can't score a god-damned goal. There were so many chances where it was open nets, two on ones, where we make an early pass where maybe it should be held on to. We're just missing."
- He pointedly said his criticism of the team's conditioning should not be taken as a criticism of Tom Renney and his staff. Tortorella said he's been on the other end - he was criticized on the way out in Tampa Bay - and that angered him. "That's the last thing I want to do with Tom Renney."
Tortorella added it was just four or five players, then snapped at the Post's Larry Brooks when Larry asked for the names. "None of your business," Tortorella said sharply, before realizing where he was and relaxing, saying he wasn't trying to act "smart." "That's between me and the players as we go in the locker room. I don't think that needs to be broadcast."
However, it's very, very obvious one of the players is D Erik Reitz, who was not out for the pre-game skate. Looks like Paul Mara will be returning after missing just five games with a dislocated right shoulder. If that's true, it would be a huge shock. Mara said he was on a three-to-six week recovery and he hasn't even gotten to two weeks yet, not to mention he hasn't been through real contact drills yet. But Tortorella is anything but conservative. Usually, the Rangers are very conservative about bringing guys back from injuries slowly.
Markus Naslund-Scott Gomez-Ryan Callahan
Brandon Dubinsky-Chris Drury-Nikolai Zherdev
Nigel Dawes-Lauri Korpikoski-Petr Prucha
Aaron Voros-Blair Betts-Colton Orr
Craig Anderson, who shut out the Rangers 4-0 the last time the Panthers were at the Garden, appears to be the Florida starter. Doesn't make a difference, Tomas Vokoun was good in the Panthers' 2-1 shootout win at Florida on Feb. 13.
Check below for updates once the game begins.
UPDATE, 6:45 First period: Good start for the Rangers but it would have been a great start had Brandon Dubinsky's tip of Paul Mara's shot from the right point not been waved off for a high stick. Still, Scott Gomez got the net for a shot as did Nigel Dawes and Lauri Korpikoski. Plus the Rangers kill off (what else is new) a hooking call against Markus Naslund.
UPDATE, 7:34 First period: Rangers are 1 for 2 in goal reviews as Markus Naslund's rebound goal - off his stick perhaps off his left skate - is allowed. Ryan Callahan made the play in his defensive zone with a hard check that created the up-ice rush.
AFTER FIRST PERIOD: Not going to get too excited about this because it was the case night, too. But the Rangers outshot the Panthers, 17-8, in the first period, three short of their season-high for a period (done twice). Last night, Rangers outshot the Maple Leafs 10-3 in the first period. The difference, of course, is that tonight the Rangers have scored a %^((%$(&$ goal, to quote the coach. Still can't say enough about Ryan Callahan's play. Like I posted, he created that first goal with a hard check and just skates 100 mph the whole period. Paul Mara didn't look too rusty considering his absence. Haven't seen him absorb a huge hit.
Funny line in the press box: Tortorella is going to ban skating across the Rangers logo during games.
UPDATE, 9;59 Second period: Paul Mara and Dmitri Kalinin on the power play points. Interesting.
UPDATE, 17:23 Second period: How about goalie diving in addition to Callahan's goalie interference call?
AFTER SECOND PERIOD: Rangers outshoot Panthers, 13-8, in the second period, 30-16 for the game. The big question, of course, is whether the Rangers trail off in the third period. Paul Mara might be a concern considering he hasn't played in 11 days. But if Erik Reitz was one of the main culprits last night, well, he's not playing. And when it comes to Reitz, that's obviously not on Renney at all since he spent most of the season with Minnesota. Overall, the Rangers are playing better and more consistently tonight than last night.
FINAL: PANTHERS 2, RANGERS 1: Some quick hits out of yet another losing locker.
- In general, an upbeat feeling that this team is going to mesh with the way Tortorella wants to play and start producing. I mentioned to Markus Naslund there was no longer much time left, 19 games, and he said it wasn't going to take weeks.
- Tortorella said there was no point discussing the waved-off Dubinsky goal because it was reviewed by the league office in Toronto and quickly (very quickly) ruled no goal. Dubinsky said he thought it was a goal, based on his height and where he was holding the stick.
- Tortorella said the 5 on 3 was a killer but he's going to continue sending out Gomez, Naslund, Drury and Zherdev, with Zherdev on point, in those situations.
- Things could not have gone worse for the Rangers standing-wise tonight. They lose so the Panthers tie them for sixth place with 70 points, though Panthers have won season series, have fewer losses and have played fewer games. Buffalo losses a shootout to Carolina so now those teams are tied for the final playoff spot with 69 points. And idle Pittsburgh is lurking with 66 points. Right now, I'd say there is a very strong possibility the Rangers do not make the playoffs, which would have been unfathomable coming into the new year.